Sales may be down, but don't write off the netbook yet. It's still a viable form factor for Windows PCs. Netbooks have a few key advantages going for them, and computer manufacturers should just stop and take a moment to consider them.
The three mobile PC form factors are netbook, notebook and tablet. I own all three now, and I like each one for different reasons. As a software developer, I saw the need to move away from the desktop and to finally get mobile. Since mobile PCs are the future, I felt this was the year for me to get some portable Windows computers so I could better test my software on these form factors. It's not rocket science: There's a big difference between laptop and desktop user experiences (there will be even more so with Windows 8). I needed to see how my software feels on these devices.
I tend to be a bit on the thrifty side, so I spent months researching my purchases. I didn't want anything that was "bleeding edge" technology, but instead wanted low-cost, mass-market computers (which reaches broader audience of people using my software). I wanted a netbook first, but instead I opted for a slightly bigger netbookish laptop with an 11.6 inch screen, 1366 x 768 resolution and dual-core CPU, which I picked up on sale for only $299. I really like this computer, especially the screen size. Because I wanted to have some experience testing software on a real netbook with an Atom CPU, I shopped around. Walmart offered a tempting Acer model, but it wasn't until the newer ones came out with dual-core Atom CPU's that I finally decided it may be worth it. Finally I found a great deal on the ExoPC Windows tablet.
Being able to actually own and compare these three different form factors for some time now, I've reached some startling conclusions about netbooks.
Tablets Are Great, But Will Never Replace Laptops!
I like the Tablet PC and touch is quite interesting when you get used to it, but a Tablet PC will never replace a well-designed laptop computer. Why? First the keyboard is integrated into a laptop, while a tablet it is external (or soft touch). Let's face it, typing on a tablet will never be the same as on a laptop. On a tablet your keyboard has to take up screen space and the feel will never be the same as real keys. Also your finger gets in the way (view) on a tablet, unlike a touchpad on a laptop. So while tablets have their use, if I want a more complete Windows experience, a laptop wins hands down.
Netbooks Can Sub for Notebooks
So which form factor is better for the notebook category? Each has its uses and benefits. If you need the larger screen and a powerhouse CPU, of course a laptop is going to be better. That's why my first choice for a moble computer was larger and better than a netbook. Yet, there is just something about that little netbook which draws a person. What is it? Price and small form factor.
I have elderly friends on budgets and the low price at Walmart was just irresistible -- they love their netbooks! The netbook I bought is primarily for my wife to use, and she loves it. Now that Netbooks come with dual-core CPU's. They're powerful enough. Manufacturers like Acer and Asus would be better off keeping the specs as they are and instead make lower pricing the priority. Acer's D257 Netbook sells for $249 at Walmart -- at $199, netbook sales could possibly improve. Go for the price point, not features, I say. Stores like Walmart also need to display more models of netbooks. One netbook for every ten laptops on display isn't enough.
Low price, with small size and weight, is appealing. Even if a tablet weighs less than a netbook it will likely cost more -- certainly on a screen-size comparison basis. So netbooks win the prize for lightweight mobility.
I love my little Acer Netbook! It is so small and lightweight and it has a great keyboard. I don't need a special stand for it, like I do with the tablet to hold the screen at the right angle to work with it. The netbook is so inexpensive and so small, it is the first choice when one may want to grab a computer and take it on the road. Sure if you plan on some serious work, the larger laptop may be preferable, but if you only need the computer for simpler stuff, watching a movie, web browsing, reading using the Nook freeware application, the netbook is the better choice. The size and weight are just right, and it has the physical keyboard a tablet doesn't.
Now I know everyone is looking to ultrabooks as the future of mobile computing, but consider this: For the price of one ultrabook one could buy a Netbook for every person in a family of four. The price of a netbook is so low, that parents who want to buy mobile computers for their kids are more likely to be able to afford them.
Manufacturers Should Look At Netbooks Differently
What would I do if I was a Netbook manufacturer?
Lower selling prices as much as possible on netbooks, without totally killing margins
Turn the netbook into a consumer device just like our television sets are
Drop hard drive sizes down to 100GB
Drop the external VGA connector
Drop the Ethernet connector
Have one USB port
Keep the HDMI port and SD slot
Design them to use rechargeable AA batteries
Offer some models without WiFi
Offer Windows 8 Starter Edition
Manufacturers' goals should be to create the ultimate, tiny Windows PC that would be just as common as televisions and priced in the $150 to $199 range. Windows tablet computers currently cannot reach a goal like this, but a redesigned netbook computer could.
Last week my smartphone fell in the drink and was never heard from since. Eight out of ten people in this situation would use this as the impetus to finally upgrade from Android to iPhone. Let’s just say I wasn't in the minority here.
Once my new magic Apple hand-computer came home with me, it was instantly a part of the family. My 5-year-old, who leads a largely media-free life as part of her Waldorf schooling, acted as if she’d waited far too long for me to finally come to my senses.
“Do you have Angry Birds?” she asked nonchalantly. Then she showed me how to use one of the camera features two seconds after laying hands on the phone and figuring it out herself. Somebody was going to need a pass code.
Truly, I’m not opposed to her killing a couple of monkeys in the name of bird rescue (yes, I had to Google search 'Angry Birds' to know that’s what it entails). But I do worry about the possible radiation effects of cell phones on children.
Most of the research on whether cell phone radiation leads to cancer is inconclusive. For the last few years there has been much debate (and many sensational headlines) on whether mobile phones increase your risk or not.
Instinctively, I figure this may be something that takes many years to fully study.Recent findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concur.
In a May 2011 release, the IRAC, which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO), presented its most recent findings on brain cancer risks associated with cell phone usage. Based on that, WHO changed its position from there being no link to cell phones and brain cancer, to listing mobile phones in the same 'carcinogenic hazard' category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.
That shift came about after a team of 31 scientists from the US and 13 other countries investigated peer-reviewed studies and found enough evidence to categorize personal exposure as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." The scientists found that among cell phone users, there was some evidence of an increase in glioma and acoustic neuroma brain cancer — however, they have not been able to draw conclusions for other types of cancers.
"Given the potential consequences for public health of this classification and findings," said IARC Director Christopher Wild in the release. "it is important that additional research be conducted into the long‐ term, heavy use of mobile phones. Pending the availability of such information, it is important to take pragmatic measures to reduce exposure such as hands‐free devices or texting."
In July of that same year, the results of an unprecedented study published in the Journal of The National Cancer Institute began circulating around the internet: 'Study Sees No Cellphone-Cancer Ties'; 'Cellphones Don't Increase Cancer Risk in Kids, Study Says'; 'Cellphones, Kids and Cancer: Don't Worry, Be Happy?'. But immediately, at least two prominent environmental health groups believe the study is fundamentally flawed.
Both the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) argued that poor data and methodological flaws render the findings problematic. Among the organizations' complaints were the study’s failure to examine the consequences of long-term use and a weak definition of "regular" phone use.
The Apple iPhone 4 safety manual says users' radiation exposure should not exceed FCC guidelines: "When using iPhone near your body for voice calls or for wireless data transmission over a cellular network, keep iPhone at least 15 millimeters (5/8 inch) away from the body."
So, 5/8 of an inch? Most people I know, and certainly most kids, usually have the thing plastered to the ear! With all the uncertainty in the air, this mom is not very comforted. Too, if the radiation does prove to have long-term consequences, our kids are way more at risk than we are.
According to research published in October in the journal Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine, children absorb significantly more cell phone radiation than previously thought. This is because children have smaller heads and thinner skulls than adults, which means their bone marrow can absorb up to ten times the radiation that an adult's might.
From what I understand, a cell phone is most dangerous when held up to your head to talk, so if my kids do use it to speak to friends and relatives, we always use speakerphone. Too, because I’m the cautious type, I’ll keep the game play and other endless distractions of the phone to a minimum with them.
I hope I’m making the right and healthy choice for my family, not going overboard, or doing too little. When I look ahead at little 12-year-olds who carry phones as a lifeline to friends and home, I know I can only limit their use for so long. So I hold my breath and wait for more studies and ever-better technology to emerge. One thing’s for sure: With gadgets this good, we won’t go back — the only way to move is forward.
Microsoft revealed some months ago that it has been developing Kinect software for the PC, but now it seems as though it is to be introduced to portable devices also.
The Daily reports it has had the chance to test out a few prototype versions of portable devices involving Kinect sensors.
They are Asus Netbooks running on Windows 8 with an array of small sensors across the top of the screen, where a webcam would normally be placed.
LED lights running across the bottom are the only other discernable difference between the Kinect device and any other typical netbook.
The Daily, which has confirmed with Microsoft that these netbooks are genuine prototypes of a Kinect-powered device, says there are numerous interesting possibilities for using this technology on a portable computer.
Gaming is an obvious benefit, as this was the primary reason for the Kinect's inception as an Xbox add-on.
However, users should be able to toggle between programmes on their netbook with the wave of a hand, while also pausing and skipping digital media without needing a remote.
It also provides a real opportunity for disabled persons to interact with technology in a more effective fashion.
The Daily suggests that, much like Windows 8, Microsoft will most likely licence this technology to original equipment manufacturers, allowing the innovative firms to develop the software into a range of different avenues.
Craig Eisler, general manager of Kinect for Windows, explained Microsoft's position with this type of technology in November, saying: "Last year the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft showed the world how to re-imagine gaming.
"This year, we're showing the world how to re-imagine entertainment. Next year, with Kinect for Windows, we will help the world re-imagine everything else."
One of the most common reasons for the failure of short term financial plans is a key appliance failure. Setting aside just $10 a week to an appliance replacement fund can make a difference.
It’s been a real challenge turning our financial situation around. My husband seems supportive but he’s having a really hard time breaking his old spending habits and with our reduced income it is really a challenge every month.
I finally was able to get about $300 together for an emergency fund and I was really happy with my progress when our hot water heater died. We had to replace it and it not only ate all of our emergency fund but put us a few hundred deeper in debt.
It feels like every time we start to get ahead we end up further behind.
The popularity of Apple products like Mac computers and iPad tablets has made the Cupertino, Calif., the world leader in PC sales, Photo by Scott Eells/Bloomberg
Apple's iPad isn’t just the top-selling tablet in the world — it helped push the company past Hewlett Packard to become the No. 1 personal computer vendor.
Tech research firm Canalys, which counts tablets as PCs when tabulating global market share, on Monday said the more than 15 million iPads sold in the fourth quarter last year propelled Apple to the top spot among computer makers.
Sales of the popular tablet, along with 5 million Mac computers, gave Apple 17% of the 120 million client PCs shipped worldwide in the fourth quarter, said Canalys.
The total client PC market — which includes desktops, netbooks, notebooks and tablets — rose 16% in 2011 compared to the previous year.
Pads were 22% of total PC shipments during the period.
Take away tablet sales, and the client PC market actually fell 0.4%, according to the report.
HP struggled to make a dent in the tablet market last year with its TouchPad, which the company discontinued and ended up discounting for as low as $99.
LONDON: North Korea has warned its citizens against use of cell phones inside the country, saying anyone caught talking on mobiles would be branded as " war criminals" and punished accordingly, a media report said.
North Korea has long relied on a total restriction of information to maintain control over its isolated citizenry, and in this crucial time of transition between late Kim Jong Il and his successor, Kim Jong Un, the state is clamping down on anyone using mobile phones, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.
This is apparently because of fears of possible discontent among people if they come to know about conditions outside North Korea from any report sent into the country by mobile phones, the report said.
There are also concerns in North Korea that reports about the popular uprisings in the Middle East last year which toppled long-ruling dictators in countries like Tunisia, Libya and Egypt could trigger unrest in the isolated nation.
Moreover, the North Korean regime fears that any outside communication could assist anybody attempting to flee the country to reach South Korea, where an estimated 23,000 defectors have now settled, the report said.
Meanwhile there are reports from within the isolated state that food supplies are again dwindling and that there has been an increase in the number of people attempting to cross the border into China.
The North recently accepted private food aid from the South Korean "Korea Peace Foundation" even as they maintain military exercises and standing threats against their neighbour.
The BBC has launched a tablet version of the public broadcaster's popular news app for Android smartphones with an international version available soon.
The Android BBC News app has been downloaded more than three million times since it arrived last year but the latest version has an optimised layout for larger tablet devices, with 7.1-inch mini tablets sticking to the smartphone layout.
"Growing numbers of people are accessing BBC News on mobiles and tablets," said the Beeb's mobile news chief Kate Milner in a blog post announcing the new version.
"In an average week, the BBC News sites and apps are visited by around 9.7m users worldwide on mobile and tablet devices. That represents about 26% of the total," Milner added.
The Beeb will be working on more mobile and tablet improvements over the year.
It's the stuff dream kitchens are made of, but high-end appliances have become a prime target for thieves in the Toronto area.
About $50,000 in appliances, including a refrigerator, a stove and a washing machine, were stolen from a home in the 401 and Bayview area on Monday.
The home was vacant, having been recently rebuilt. It's on the market for nearly $3 million.
Real estate agent Michael Harari knows the problem all too well. In December, a $2.8-million home he's selling in the Glencairn and Bathurst area had nearly $40,000 in appliances stolen.
"It was all top-of-the-line stuff," he said. "High-end appliances for an expensive home, from a sub-zero fridge to a fancy range oven."
Harari said the thieves were very thorough — they cut the alarm system and knew how to take apart gas, water and electrical connections.
"We found out they even took the central vacuum unit out of the garage," he said.
Three large thefts in six months
The theft was one of the three incidents in the last six months — enough for the Toronto Real Estate Board to issue a warning to the 30,000-plus agents it represents.
"Appliance thefts at newly built vacant homes are becoming a more common occurrence in Toronto," the notice reads.
Board president Richard Silver says he hasn't seen anything like this in the 30-plus years he been in the real estate business. He hopes the notice will raise awareness.
“We really put it out as a way of finding out whether there was something we could glean by putting the three in touch with each other…. It was a way of doing almost like an Amber Alert for this kind of a crime," Silver said.
In recent years, the housing industry has dealt with the theft of building supplies from construction sites. In August, the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association issued a warning about thefts from construction sites.
Silver cautions that these kinds of thefts are still relatively rare.
"This was a pretty brazen act, and we just wanted to make sure that our members were on notice and going to take care and make sure that any properties they had [that] were vacant they'd keep an eye on," Silver said.
Upscale homes targeted
Police say the people behind the thefts are well informed and well organized, targeting newly renovated or built homes in upscale neighbourhoods.
"It's more organized criminals," said Const. Tony Vella. "They have the information, they pull up in a vehicle, and they take the belongings and flee the scene. Homeowners will realize they've been broken into after the fact."
Harari said in his case, with so many workers coming and going from the home, neighbours didn't even realize something was amiss.
"Most people passing by or neighbours would probably think it's something the builder is doing in order to get the house on the market, complete the construction of the house, so most people won't be that suspicious," he said.
Harari said the homeowner is upgrading the alarms and is warning other agents about the problem.
When you hear the word Kindle, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, this would be Amazon's smash hit e-book device, with its svelte looks and crisp e-ink display. But even if you don't want to shell out for a separate device, you can still enjoy many of the Kindle's benefits for no charge, thanks to Kindle for PC.
When you hear the word Kindle, what's the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, this would be Amazon's smash hit e-book device, with its svelte looks and crisp e-ink display. But even if you don't want to shell out for a separate device, you can still enjoy many of the Kindle's benefits for no charge, thanks to Kindle for PC.
With its range of powerful, dedicated hardware device, Amazon could almost be expected to neglect its Windows application. Instead, it has continued developing it, added compelling features, and made it into one of the best e-book reader applications available for Windows today.
When you first launch Kindle for PC, it prompts you to log on to your Amazon account. Once you do, your books are displayed with beautiful cover images. Double-click a book, and it instantly downloads to your computer.
Once on your computer, double-click the book again to start reading. If it is a book you bought on Amazon and started reading on another device, Kindle for PC will ask if you want to go to the last page you've read. It will also show any notes and highlights you've made in the book, even when reading it on another device, making for a seamless cross-device reading experience. Much like with Kindle devices, you can opt to ready our book in one of several fonts and font sizes. You can also control the color scheme (black, white, or sepia background), and its brightness. This is a very helpful feature when reading in the dark--and combined with the application's full screen mode, it goes a long way towards reducing eyestrain from monitor glare.
Modern computer monitors tend to be wide, and lines can stretch on and on. While you can increase the margin size (much like with a physical Kindle), Kindle for PC also lets you reflow the text into two columns. This makes for a beautiful layout, almost reminiscent of a physical book spread out for reading.
There is another feature Kindle for PC provides, which is something I can't do with my "real" Kindle 3 device. This is something called Shelfari Extras, and it provides instant context for the book you are currently reading. Shelfari is a community website owned by Amazon since August 2008. It is essentially a large catalog of books, where users are invited to tell the world about what they've read and fill in particular bits of information about every book, such as key characters, places, and even define special words used in the book.
With Kindle for PC, you can simply click the name of a character in the book, select More, and click Shelfari Extras. If it's a well-known book, a definition for that particular character will pop up ("John's brother, separated at birth"). This worked for the book I was testing Kindle for PC with, and frankly, it blew me away. It is a brilliant use of crowd-sourced information: The more people read the book and talk about it, the better the database gets.
When all is said and done, Kindle for PC still runs on a PC. It can be a small notebook computer, but it's no physical Kindle. That is not necessarily bad, but it certainly makes for a different reading experience.
Note: The Download button takes you to the developer's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.
The popularity of media tablets is extraordinary, given the fact that they emerged on the market less than two years ago. While some market research firms predict that eventually slates will match or outsell notebooks in terms of unit sales, Apple is confident: media tablets like the iPad are on-track to outsell personal computers in general.
"I truly believe, and many others in the company believe, that there will come a day that the tablet market and units is larger than the PC market," said Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, during the most recent conference call with financial analysts.
Modern tablets can do a lot of simple tasks, but they are clearly not personal computers and cannot be used for content creation, although Apple, Google and Microsoft are working hard to bring tools from "big" operating systems onto tablets. But tablets are perfect for a number of things like reading, monitoring the Internet and receiving information. In fact, last quarter more tablets were sold in the U.S. than desktop PCs were shipped.
"It is interesting to note that in the U.S., it ss clear from the IDC's recent data on desktop PCs in the U.S., that tablets exceeded desktop PC sales last quarter in the U.S.," explained the head of Apple.
With around 15.4 million of iPad 2 media slates sold during the fourth quarter of 2012, Apple was clearly the biggest supplier of tablets back in Q4. Although the company admits that sales of its Macintosh systems are growing slower because of the iPad 2, it claims that those tablets are also cannibalizing sales of Windows-based computers as well.
"There is cannibalization clearly of the Mac by the iPad, but we continue to believe there is much more cannibalization of Windows PCs by the iPad and there is many more of them to cannibalize. So, we love the [cannibalization] trend, we think it is great for us," added Mr. Cook.
But while tablets have rather bright prospects, there is a big question whether tablets will outsell PCs provided that they are bought as companion devices.
Cold comfort ... an LG smart fridge on display. Photo: Tamara Voninski
As the "smart" revolution spreads from phones to other electronics, some manufacturers are hoping to make a bundle by selling refrigerators that spew out recipes based on what's inside, robotic vacuum cleaners with remote-controlled cameras, and washers and dryers you can monitor from your phone.
But if you're thinking of a futuristic home like the Jetsons', think again. These smart appliances are not all that smart, at least not yet.
"It's been around for a while and it hasn't caught fire," said Neil Strother, an analyst at Pike Research. "It seems like a cool dryer here, a fancy refrigerator there. It needs to be better packaged where if I pay an extra $200 for an appliance, show me the payback."
Smart appliances are part of a larger trend toward smart electronics, which took hold with phones and is now moving rapidly toward televisions and household appliances. "Smart" may have been the most commonly used adjective at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas — with smart TVs, cameras, vacuums, remote controls, to name a few, on abundant display.
The idea is that consumers can control the devices, which can communicate wirelessly, with their smartphones, tablets or televisions. So the owner of a smart refrigerator could check what's in the refrigerator on a smartphone, and in some instances, send photographs to be displayed on the refrigerator's LCD screen.
But the smart refrigerators being offered these days aren't smart enough to keep track of the food inside; consumers still need to do that themselves with a touch screen. And while smart washers allow remote changing of the settings, some question how many consumers would be willing to pay for that perk.
Meanwhile, an important selling point of smart appliances is that they can link into a smart electrical grid that keeps tabs on energy use and programs them to run during off-peak hours, saving money. But the smart-grid projects are just getting under way in the United States.
Christopher Mims, who reviews technology for Technology Review, among others, said he thought that while the energy-saving features on smart appliances were interesting, many others were superfluous.
He recently checked out a Samsung smart refrigerator. "It has Pandora [a music app] and a weather app," he said. "You have to ask yourself, why wouldn't you look at your phone that is in your pocket?"
David MacGregor, the president of Longbow Research, tracks some appliance manufacturers and said smart appliances will make more sense when the building industry recovers, and when they can be incorporated into new homes. "It does have the potential to become more meaningful longer term," he said of the new technology.
Other industry officials say the efforts to make the kitchen smart are just beginning, and that the appliances will get better and cheaper in coming years.
Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung's president for consumer products, said in an interview at the electronics show that smart appliances will ultimately make consumers' lives easier, allowing them to turn on the air conditioner a half an hour before they get home, get an alert when the dryer is done, or scribble messages on the LCD screen on their refrigerator.
"We have all entered the smart age," he said, adding that he hopes consumers embrace the "smart age" by buying Samsung products.
In an earlier "smart age," in 2000, Sharp introduced a microwave that could pull recipes off the internet and set the appropriate temperature, and Sunbeam created a separate company, Thalia Products, for "thinking and linking intelligent appliances." These efforts flopped.
"I get enormous amusement seeing what is going on," said John Hamann, the former chief executive of Thalia Products, who said the company folded, a victim of Sunbeam's financial woes. "We were talking about this 10 years ago."
Mr Hamann, who attended this year's electronics show, said he believed the latest generation of smart products were not compelling enough.
"I think there is still way too much emphasis on technological wizardry and far too little on consumer benefit," he said.
Still, there are differences in what is offered this time around — especially in the role of smartphones, which were not around a decade ago. In addition, even if the idea of a connected home, controlled by a smart electrical grid, is years off, it is more than just a pipe dream.
For now, though, manufacturers are promoting the high-tech gizmos on their smart appliances, rather than focusing on the potential for being a cog in a smart grid.
Samsung Electronics, for instance, offers a French-door refrigerator with an LCD screen and its own apps, allowing consumers to pull up the weather, browse the web for recipes, listen to music and keep tabs on what is in the refrigerator. The 790-litre, four-door refrigerator costs about $US3500.
LG Electronics is introducing a refrigerator that allows consumers to scan a grocery receipt with their smartphone so that the refrigerator can track what is inside.
So if you buy some chicken, for instance, the refrigerator will keep tabs on when you bought it and tell you when it is about to expire. If you have chicken, broccoli and lemons in your refrigerator, it will offer recipes that include those three ingredients, even narrowing recipes bases on specific dietary needs and goals.
Several manufacturers are introducing washers and dryers equipped with Wi-Fi that alert consumers on their television or smartphone when a load is done, and gives them the option of fluffing towels for another 10 minutes or adding a rinse cycle.
LG's robotic smart vacuum can be told, again, through a smartphone, to clean up the living room. And since it's equipped with a built-in camera, its owner can secretly watch what the nanny is doing, too.
LG's smart appliances are not yet available for sale so prices are not set; officials said they would cost more than conventional appliances.
Not all manufacturers are sold on the idea of outfitting household appliances with computer screens and apps.
General Electric's smart appliances, for instance, do nothing more than communicate with a smart grid to save money by operating during off-peak hours. "If the purpose is saving more energy, why would you want to put something on that takes more power?" said Kevin Schader, a spokesman for the Zigbee Alliance, which provides wireless technology for GE appliances. "Wi-Fi is overkill."
Carphone Warehouse is branching out into laptops and tablets. Photo: Getty
HIGH street retailer Carphone Warehouse yesterday unveiled plans to sell more laptops, tablets and other electronic gadgets to make up for slowing sales of pay-as-you-go mobile phones.
The firm last year closed its 11 “big box” out-of-town stores in the UK, which had been launched under a joint venture with US giant Best Buy in an effort to take on Comet and Currys in the home electricals market.
Carphone’s latest venture, under the “Wireless World” brand, will use its existing stores to sell smaller gadgets such as Kindle e-book readers.
Chief executive Roger Taylor said: “We can sell those in a much smaller retailing environment. You do not need a 30,000sq ft box to sell what I think is going to be interesting in consumer electronics retailing.”
About 300 of the firm’s 2,400 stores across the UK and Europe have already been re-branded, with the total expected to rise to 375 by the end of March.
Sales of laptops, tablets and other non-mobile phone products at the company’s stores rose by 15 per cent in the three months to 31 December, according to new figures.
But such products still only account for about 10 per cent of the firm’s turnover, leading Taylor to believe that the firm can grow this area of its business despite stiff competition and weak consumer spending.
Like-for-like sales fell by 4.7 per cent in the 13 weeks to Hogmanay – the company’s third quarter – worse than analysts’ predictions for a 4.2 per cent drop and deeper than the 3.9 per cent decrease posted in the first half of its financial year.
The number of customers the firm connected to phone networks dropped by 16.6 per cent, with pay-as-you-go (PAYG) handsets the worst hit.
Carphone Warehouse estimates that the PAYG market as a whole in the UK was down by 35 to 40 per cent in the run up to Christmas because of a lack of subsidies from networks and fewer smartphones being available to customers.
Taylor warned that the company was losing up to £50 million in sales from the PAYG sector and that they were unlikely to be directly replaced.
But he was more up-beat about the pay-monthly market, where many customers were upgrading to the Apple iPhone 4S or Research in Motion’s latest BlackBerry as they came to the end of their 24-month contracts.
Analysts at Citi said: “Carphone Warehouse offers growth via the accelerated roll-out of the smartphone, tablet, accessory and service format ‘Wireless World’, together with the benefit from new network terms.”
South Carolina residents who are shopping for a new, energy-efficient appliance may want to wait until Friday, when a brief window will open for a new round of rebates offered by the S.C. Energy Office.
Those who just bought such an appliance are out of luck, because the rebates aren't retroactive.
What's happened is that the Palmetto State had a little federal stimulus money left over from 2010, when it received $3.9 million to use for appliance rebates.
At that time, rebates of up to $500 were available for a wide range of appliances, including heat pumps and tankless water heaters.
Most of the money was claimed in just two months.
Later, some of those claimed rebates were canceled, because purchases were returned and for other reasons, said Rebecca Griggs of the Energy Office. So the state ended up with about $325,000 to either use for more rebates or return to Washington.
"We wanted to be able to extend this program again, because it was such a success on the first go-around," Griggs said.
This time smaller rebates are available, for just four types of appliances, and the items must be purchased no sooner than Friday and no later than Feb. 5 to qualify for the money.
People who buy a clothes washer, dishwasher, refrigerator, or window unit air conditioner bearing the "Energy Star" label during that brief period could get a $100 rebate for a clothes washer, and $50 each for the other appliances.
The appliances that are being replaced must be disposed of.
The idea behind the rebates is to reduce energy and water consumption through increased efficiency, while also encouraging consumers to stimulate the economy by buying new appliances.
In order to get a check, a rebate form available on the South Carolina Energy Office's website must be mailed within five days of the qualifying purchase, along with details of the purchase and a receipt.
"We feel like we'll be able to cover the rebates for that time period (with the available federal funding)," Griggs said. If not, the Energy Office has some funds it can tap to address any shortfall.
Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) Tablet computers will contribute enormously to the worldwide semiconductor market by 2015 as different platforms compete to interest consumers, according to market intelligence firm Gartner Inc.
Gartner forecasted that tablet semiconductor revenue will amount to US$20 billion (NT$604.5 billion) in 2015, compared with US$6 billion in 2011, ranking fourth behind semiconductor revenue in laptops, smartphones and desktop computers.
NAND flash memory, wireless connectivity and sensor devices will benefit from the emergence of tablet PCs, while processors with mixed impact and dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) will suffer, the research firm said.
"Software compatibility, design flexibility and cost of development will determine the winner," Taiwan-based Gartner analyst Ben Lee said at a recent press conference.
"Chip vendors should focus on evolving usage patterns while choosing processor architecture," he added.
Lee said major processor architectures for tablets, including ARM Holdings Plc, Intel Corp. and MIPS Technologies Inc., will level out on power efficiency and performance by 2015.
He believed that ARM will still dominate the market by that time due to the almost 100 percent share in smartphones and tablets it currently owns.
Speaking on the overall tablet market, Lee expected the total tablet shipments to increase to 316 million units in 2015 from 63.6 million last year with a compound annual growth rate of 77 percent, much higher than the 14 percent forecast for laptops.
Lee added that shipments of Apple Inc.'s iPad reached 49 million units in 2011, taking 73 percent of the overall market, while shipments of tablets running on Google Inc.'s Android open platform totaled 11 million units last year with only a 17 percent share.
However, the market share of Android tablets will gear up to 35 percent by 2015 with a compound annual growth rate of 114 percent, while the share of Apple's iPad will dr
The LG Smart Refrigerator is one of the many new "smart" appliances recently revealed at the Consumer and Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month that can be connected to a home network and manage your entire kitchen. Designed to communicate with other devices via Wi-Fi, it can be controlled with a smart phone and can send updates monitoring electricity and food consumption.
The LG Smart Refrigerator runs a system known as what LG describes as a total food management system that can track the moldiness of food, expiration dates, send updates on what is running low and even suggest recipes based on what ingredients are inside of it.
This new refriger-bot comes equipped with French doors and a touch LCD screen that gives access to online shopping, grocery lists, calendars and photos--all of which can be accessed via smart phone too.
Grocery receipts can be scanned with the camera on smart phones and the food items are automatically downloaded into the system. This bad mofo even has voice recognition technology.
It is only one of many appliances that is part of the Smart ThinQ suite of products from LG Electronics.
The other appliances in the suite include a self-diagnosing washing machine, a remotely-monitored vacuum cleaner, and a smart oven that monitors cooking through mobile devices.
Everything can also be connected to an LG Smart TV, on which everything can be tracked without you even getting up from your comfy couch.
There is also the Health Manager feature, which recommends recipes and menus based on user profiles that take into account factors like age, weight, gender and body mass index (BMI). When a recipe is selected, the information is sent wirelessly to the oven for proper settings.
Wow, the only thing it doesn't have is mechanical arms to take food out of the fridge and prepare it, which requires you, of course.
Networked, remotely-monitored kitchen appliances are the next best thing for your home. With all of these "smart", Wi-Fi-connected devices to run your home, what's left for you? Nothing, just let robots run your life.
If you've recently taken delivery of an Asus Transformer Prime, but are the sort who craves a touch more 'Optimus', strap on the latest in netbook-pimping accessories and turn your trusty little laptop into a roaming robot.
The last word in mobile tech, the Oculus transforms any laptop smaller than 11 inches into a robot that can be driven remotely -- fittingly enough -- via an Android device, using the free software. It also works using an iPhone or iPad.
The adjustable, motorised, wheeled frame is powered entirely by your netbook's USB connection, and will typically last for up to two hours.
Using the computer's in-built mic and speakers, it opens up the possibility of two-way webcam communication with your pet guinea pig -- which is apparently how its makers Xaxxon see it being used.
Alternatively, you could hold remote conversations with your smart Wi-Fi rabbit, and in so doing, help bring about the future as prophesised by Herbie Hancock in 1983, of a world full of demented robots remotely controlled by a disembodied TV head. If that's your dream -- it's definitely ours -- consider yourself one step closer to the Rapture.
Compatible with Windows and Linux, the software is open source and the microcontroller is Arduino-compatible for ultimate customisation.
If you see yourself as a would-be character in The Big Bang Theory, Springwise reports you can pre-order it from Kickstarter for $225 (£145). If the project reaches $15,000 funding, it will go on sale for a retail price of $270 (£175). Check it out in action in the video below, and let us know what you think in the comments and over on our Facebook page.
Models show a refrigerator by LG Electronics which supports wireless Internet.
By Yoon Ja-young
Home appliances are increasingly being connected to the Internet. Not only mobile devices but also home appliances like refrigerators are being equipped with Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity), which enables the use of the wireless Internet.
The launch of Wi-Fi home appliances has to do with the increasing penetration of Wi-Fi. There are around 350,000 Wi-Fi zones set up by the three mobile carriers ― SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus. Moreover, homes are increasingly installing wireless Internet to use smartphones and tablets. Hence, manufacturers have started developing “smart” home appliances.
Wi-Fi opened up new possibilities for reliable home appliances not seen in decades. Refrigerators, which had no other role than storing food and beverages, lead the way. Smart refrigerators have LCD screens, through which users can do their grocery shopping. When the food items are delivered, one has only to scan the receipt or the bar code of the grocery item before storing them. As the refrigerator is linked with a smartphone through Wi-Fi, it provides constant information. They even recommend what to cook for the day or the week, based on the information of the contents inside.
“Users can input personal information of family members, such as gender, weight, health, and the refrigerator suggests recipes,” added a spokesperson for LG Electronics. LG has launched smart refrigerators, washing machines, ovens as well as robot cleaners with Wi-Fi functions. It plans to advance into overseas markets this year, launching a more diverse range of models.
The Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices can also be linked with each other through networks. When the smart refrigerator recommends a recipe based on the groceries stored inside, one can send it to the smart oven with a click. “One has only to put the dish inside the oven. The oven will cook on its own, based on the information it got through Wi-Fi, without one having to set the temperature or the time,” the LG spokesperson explained.
He added that the Wi-Fi-equipped smart home appliances can save electricity. When electric power companies install “smart meters” at homes, appliances such as washing machines may choose to operate during times when the rates are cheapest, such as at night.
The LG spokesperson stressed that even with the adoption of Wi-Fi, the focus is on the very fundamental functions of the home appliances. “Our target is to develop refrigerators that most efficiently fulfill their basic roles, of course. The smart features of the home appliances should be easy and convenient for users to control.”
Wi-Fi has become a survival key for some electronic products that have been faltering in the market. Digital cameras, for instance, which have had their market eaten up by smartphones, are increasingly supporting the wireless Internet. Wi-Fi smart cameras by Samsung Electronics, for instance, don’t have to be linked with a computer using cables. “One can send photos or videos they took with the camera directly to social networking services like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube or e-mail them through Wi-Fi,” a Samsung spokesperson explained. It thus eliminates the trouble of having to move files to desktops, and upgrades the camera to a means of communications from being just a camera.
Samsung plans to link cameras with the cloud system so that one can immediately see photos through devices such as smartphones, tablets, desktops and smart TVs. When digital cameras get equipped with mobility, they will then have a competitive edge over smartphones as digital cameras still offer much better photo quality than phones
China’s demand for cheap home appliances is waning as the government phases out subsidies. In response, domestic companies are entering Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHIA)’s market with high-end devices, including a red washing machine that sterilizes shoes and can cost eight months of a family’s disposable income.
Export of the fancy appliances, including three-door refrigerators, may follow if the products are successful and will mean increased Chinese competition in the expensive end of the appliance world.
Sales for white goods may drop by as much as 10 percent this year, Capital Securities Corp. analyst James Hu estimates. The slowdown is boosting competition in China’s $77 billion appliance market as local brands that traditionally made cheaper products use premium lines to bolster profits.
Manufacturers are marketing swankier offerings, including Qingdao Haier Co. (600690)’s 13,999 yuan ($2,219) red washing machine, to attract China’s increasingly affluent consumers. That may help them draw local shoppers, and eventually global ones, from overseas competitors such as Philips and Siemens AG (SIE).
“Some domestic brands have shown strong ability to develop new, better products,” said Chen Jun, a Beijing-based analyst at Boxin Capital. “It’s a perfect time to upgrade, as they’ve made a lot of money from the favorable policies and aren’t worried too much about cash.”
A government program that gave shoppers as much as 400 yuan to subsidize purchases of new home appliances helped drive sales the past two years. The incentives, part of government moves to boost domestic consumption, ended Dec. 31.
Time to Upgrade
That has made premier products more important for Chinese appliance makers, which traditionally focused on cheaper offerings as foreign competitors sold more expensive items.
Chinese consumers have more to spend on discretionary items. Per-capita disposable income for households in towns and cities almost doubled to 19,109 yuan in 2010 from 2005.
Monthly disposable income of urban households in China (CNGDPYOY) averaged about 1,818 yuan last year, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics.
“Many Chinese consumers who have higher purchasing power used to prefer foreign brands because they think they’ve got reliable quality,” said Chen. “Things have changed recently. Some domestic brands have shown strong ability to develop new products.”
Qingdao Haier’s China sales more than doubled in the two years through 2010 to 54 billion yuan. China sales at air- conditioner maker Gree Electric Appliances Inc. (000651) during the same period grew 57 percent to 47 billion yuan.
China’s appliance industry is expected to grow to 862.3 billion yuan in 2016 from 485.8 billion yuan in 2011, according to estimates by London-based researcher Euromonitor International.
The business environment for the appliance industry “isn’t very promising” this year, Zhang Tieyan, a spokeswoman for Haier Group, said in a response by e-mail. The closely held appliance maker, the biggest shareholder of Qingdao Haier, will focus on innovation and push for market share through premium products such as frost-free, three-door refrigerators, she said.
Qingdao Haier’s 13,999 yuan “Casarte Duplex Front-loaded Washer” has a traditional washing machine and a sterilization section below, where shoes can be disinfected. At the Shanghai store, the red machine with a touch screen was four times costlier than a more basic, white Siemens machine.
The line offers “high technology for an elegant lifestyle,” Zhang said.
“Business is quieter for low-end products, as most people who want to buy have done so,” said Gu Mingfei, a Haier sales representative at a Shanghai store. “For the high end, a few hundred yuan of subsidy doesn’t matter to buyers. They would pay more attention to its quality, design.”
The bigger ambitions of Chinese brands will mean more competition for foreign brands such as Philips locally and eventually overseas.
China’s GD Midea Holding Co. (000527) has a 19 percent market share in China’s consumer appliance industry and Haier Group has 8.1 percent, according to Euromonitor. Philips is third with 6 percent share.
Chinese companies export mainly low-end products, said Wang Nianchun, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guosen Securities Co Ltd.. “It will be a gradual process for them to upgrade their offerings to foreign consumers,” she said. “It’s a direction they will have to take.”
Philips didn’t comment, saying it is in a “quiet period” before reporting earnings.
Nicole Neuer, a spokeswoman for BSH Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH in Munich, said China, where it mostly sells higher-end products, is one of its biggest markets globally. The company is a joint venture between Siemens and Robert Bosch GmbH that sells home appliances globally.
“We expect single-digit percentage revenue growth in China this year and expect to gain further market share in the country,” Neuer said. “Our competitive position is excellent.”
Even as higher-end lines offer a potential boost, local companies still face weakening economic growth. The higher margins from more expensive products “isn’t enough to offset declining sales,” said Chen. China’s economic growth is poised to weaken to 8.5 percent this year from about 9.2 percent in 2011, according to the median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
Air-conditioner sales are expected to grow 5 percent this year after surging about 18 percent in 2011, estimates Zhu Zheng, a Shanghai-based analyst at Ping An Securities. Refrigerator sales may be little changed after growing 14 percent last year and washing machine sales growth may slow to 4 percent from 9 percent, he said.
Qingdao Haier shares lost 37 percent last year, compared with a 22 percent drop for the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index. Gree Electric lost 4.6 percent in Shanghai trading last year.
Local brands may have an edge. “Foreign brands will find it hard to compete with domestic brands, especially in central and western areas, because they don’t enjoy advantages on costs or distribution network,” said Wang.
The government is studying policies to encourage spending on energy-saving products, online shopping and tourism, Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Jan 5.
China could introduce new policies that favor only certain appliance categories, such as energy-saving products, later this year, said Hu. Some appliance sales in rural areas continue to be subsidized.
Global and local appliance makers still have room to grow in China. There were about 42 air conditioners and 58 refrigerators in every 100 households last year, according to Ray Li, a Shanghai-based analyst at Euromonitor International.
To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michael Wei in Shanghai at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Frank Longid at firstname.lastname@example.org; Stephanie Wong at email@example.com
POWER and portability are the key elements of Intel's new Ultrabook standard.
Unlike netbooks, these machines are equipped with fast processors so users are not sacrificing mobility for speed.
Ultrabook status is bestowed on machines that meet battery life, processor and weight standards set by Intel.
Like netbooks, the Ultrabook standard tends to forgo optical drives although most popular applications have a download installation option these days and a USB DVD drive will allow you to install anything else.
Laptops can have the same processing power as an equivalent Ultrabook with the added advantage of built-in DVD drives and larger screens. They're also cheaper.
Right now, buying an Ultrabook means paying more dollars for the privilege of powerful mobility.
Intel's Kate Burleigh says Ultrabook is not a marketing ploy.
"It is an engineering specification on form and function," Burleigh tells mX .
"An Ultrabook must be less than 21mm thick. If it's 22mm it might be a great laptop, but it won't be an Ultrabook.
"It has to have instant-resume technology, so the second you open the screen it goes from standby mode to a bright screen straight away.
"It has to be running a Core i3, i5 or i7 processor and provide a minimum battery life of five hours in full running mode with wireless turned on."
Burleigh says evolving technology has allowed the creation of Ultrabooks, but also says that laptops and networks are not worthless just yet.
"Progression means computers will always get thinner and lighter and there will be early adopters jumping on board (paying the premium price)," Burleigh says.
"People still want laptops because they're available below $800.
"You will still get people wanting a ($200) netbook because of their very cheap price point."
Has a basic yet still stylish look. The Z830 has a decent-sized keyboard for fast typing although the touchpad is on the small side. Actual left and right mouse buttons below the touchpad are a nice touch. Ports located on the side and back.
Asus Zenbook UX21 $1599
Core i7 processor, 128GB HDD, 1.1kg, Cold boot time: 23sec, two USB ports, Mini HDMI, power, headphone.
The smallest of the three tested, the UX21 is also the most similar to Apple's MacBook Air. It has a funky, brushed-metal body that can be slightly tricky to open unless the unit is resting on a flat surface.
The keyboard is spread wide but not very high, so it is difficult to touch-type to full speed.
However, it has a large touchpad and Bang & Olufsen audio.
Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook $1199
Core i5, 320GB HDD, 1.35kg, Cold boot time: 28sec, two USB ports, HDMI out, power, headphones.
The largest of the three means the S3 has the best keyboard for typing although it misses out on other features, such as USB 3.0 ports.
It has a nice wide screen that is a bit hard to see outside.
It is the most comfortable unit for prolonged use, if you spend most of your time using Office and don't want to break the bank.
The folks from Microchip Technology have announced an HID-class MCP2210 USB to SPI protocol converter, which they describe as: “The simplest, smallest-footprint, and most cost-effective option for adding USB-Certified connectivity to SPI-based systems.”
Microchip also provides free downloads of supporting software drivers, DLLs and a PC configuration tool, in addition to an evaluation board, to make it fast and simple for designers without USB expertise to add USB connectivity.
The converter comes in small, 20-pin SSOP and 5x5 mm QFN packages, for space-constrained applications. Additionally, the MCP2210 has nine flexible, general-purpose I/O that can be configured via a PC as standard digital I/O pins or in alternate configurations, providing additional system I/O that simplify designs and support a wide range of applications.
According to eTForecasts, current annual PC shipments are greater than 300M and are projected to grow to more than 500M within the next four years. While most PCs have standardized on USB as the primary protocol for connecting to other devices, many of those devices still utilize the SPI protocol. In combination with the above features, software and tools, the MCP2210 converter utilizes the USB HID class, which is supported by the Windows®, Linux and Mac OS operating systems, and is a 100% plug-and-play solution, making it even simpler to add USB to existing designs for data collection, transfer and analysis, along with many other USB functions.
“USB connectivity continues to be one of our customers’ most requested items,” said Bryan J. Liddiard, marketing vice president of Microchip’s Analog and Interface Products Division. “Microchip’s PIC microcontroller families with integrated USB functionality continue to expand. This MCP2210 USB to SPI protocol converter and supporting tools give customers a simple, small-footprint and cost-effective option to add USB connectivity to SPI-based systems.”
Development Support The MCP2210 Evaluation Kit (part # ADM00421) is available today for $29.99 . Additionally, the MCP2210’s free software drivers, DLLs and PC configuration tool are all available today for download.
Pricing and availability The MCP2210 is available in a 20-pin SSOP package for $1.40 each, and a 20-pin 5x5 mm QFN package for $1.52 each, in 5,000-unit quantities. Samples and volume-production orders are available today. For additional information, contact any Microchip sales representative or authorized worldwide distributor, or visit Microchip’s Web site. at www.microchip.com/get/0QTF. To purchase products mentioned in this press release, go to microchipDIRECT or contact one of Microchip’s authorized distribution partners.
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A collection of OLED TVs at Samsung’s booth at The International Consumer Electronics Show. (Courtesy of Samsung)
The annual CES (Consumer Electronics Show) marks the start of the new tech year. As marketers, experts and designers mingle to chat about what they see will be the most exciting new trends to hit the market, consumers are often left scratching their heads about some of the choices dubbed "hottest" or "must-have." While the novel and new age can be fun to dream about, the best gadgets are those that can be easily implemented into our everyday lives. We've taken some time to speak to tech lovers and everyday consumers alike to compile this best hits list for the coming year.
It's a hand-down winner every year. Whether it's the newest iPhone or iPad, it's going to cause shopper panic and eager anticipation. This is the no-brainer of every year's list.
Already causing a stir in late 2011, the "ultrabook," or wafer-thin laptop designed to work with Windows 7, is hoping to be a worthy alternative to the MacBook Air. Weighing no more than three pounds, the ultrabook is expected to provide a super-portable option for those who demand higher computing abilities. Louis Ramirez, senior features editor for DealNews agrees.
"Every major computer manufacturer from Samsung to Asus is expected to have an ultrabook series in its repertoire for 2012," said Ramirez.
Ramirez also supports the popular verdict that Nintendo's Wii U gaming console will be the most asked-for in the new year. The U, which is described as having a "revolutionary touch screen controller" by the Nintendo official website, resembles a cross between a tablet and typical console and supports full HD graphics. While the new Wii U will support the original remotes and nunchuk controllers, as well have backward compatibility for all official Wii games, we wonder if the touchscreen component may prove to be awkward for younger players and costly for those wishing to upgrade.
For those of us who have finally adjusted to the splendor that is Windows 7, we can anticipate a whole new world of computing with the upgrades that Windows version 8 boasts to master. Louis reasons that the touch-sensitive capabilities will spur the launch of new touch-screen desktops that can take advantage of this feature. He also reminds us that the system will rely on the new mosaic-like Metro UI interface, which will "radically change the look of the current Windows desktop - trading Windows 7's desktop icons for a wall of widgets."
As far as digital cameras go, the Lytro (listed as one of the 50 best inventions of 2011 by TIME magazine), may be a game-changer. Andrew Schrage, editor of Money Crashers, looks forward to this quirky camera with a base price of around $399.
"I think it'll revolutionize what people expect in a pocket camera or even a more advanced digital SLR," said Schrage.
Part of the appeal is the ability to change the focus of any snapshot you take, after the fact - which means no more blurry images you wish you could change.
Roku Streaming Stick
The streaming entertainment desk-top boxes, made most popular by Roku, may soon be a thing of the past. The second part of 2012 will bring a slimmer, smaller version of the technology used to wirelessly bring movies, television, and games to our TV, as the Streaming Stick is introduced. Looking much like a typical USB thumb drive, but offering a more compact solution to those dust-collecting boxes, Roku hopes to give consumers a better option for software upgrades that are necessary to keep the entertainment flowing. The unit cost, around $50 – 100 for the new device, isn't the only thing you may be paying for. The Streaming Stick will connect via the MHL socket – something most TVs aren't yet equipped with.
The Bottom Line
It's best to do some research before you go "ga-ga" about any new piece of gear. As with most things, prices of new tech will come down, and bugs will be worked out the longer new gadgets are on the market. If you are concerned about blowing your budget on something that still has a few kinks, leave the risk-taking to the early adopters.
Models hold Nikon Corp. 1 cameras during the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012. The 2012 CES trade show features 2,700 global technology companies presenting consumer tech products and is expected to draw over 140,000 attendees. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
The direction in which consumer electronics is headed was exemplified by Samsung this year, as it unveiled its Smart strategy and extended it to almost all its devices... right down to its newer washing machines (the ability to control them through your smartphones, imagine).
Releasing its 55-inch OLED HDTV alongside LG, it heralded a new direction for its TV ecosystem; one that was predictively obvious and logical (apps and content tie-ins), and spontaneously brilliant to be industry-leading (networked integration and dynamic annual SoC packages).
Canonical gave us quite the surprise with their concept, the Ubuntu TV(a Linux-based set-top box), too.
As that taste lingered with us, we were, o, bombarded by a tributary of tablets, mostly unremarkable and in-your-face enough to be inconsequential to the general scheme of the market.
It was mostly about spec-upgradation and catching-up than feature-innovation, a game of me-too that was predictable but cheerless.
Not a lot of good news for us Indians, but for the sake of highlights — Acer’s Iconia 700 seemed fairly competent in the 10-inch category and the Galaxy Tab got a 7.7-inch sibling.
On the smartphone front, the big guns came fully fleshed. Nokia’s Lumia 900 became Windows Phone’s new flagship, and just when we thought we wouldn't, we uttered Xperia again; the Ion is Sony’s “beast-category” entry with a “reality” display similar to a “retina” one.
Sony also introduced an Android-based PMP of the iPod touch’s ilk, and a wristwatch like the iPod nanos. Catch-up or improvisation? You decide.
Interestingly, the OnLiveDesktop for iPad project announced their app release here. The app allows you to use Microsoft Office apps on a native Windows interface from your iPad over the web, for free.
Sound neat? Cameras saw some heat; Fujifilm’s X-Pro 1 mirrorless camera really stood out from the iterated lot, however, promising resolutions equivalent to a full-frame sensor.
Now that’s what I call sweet. Quirky gadgets thrived as well; take an iPad-based guitar, iOS controlled quadcopter, USB sticks that work as media streamers, for instance.
The P.C. part
Our old and faithful PCs got plenty of attention at CES as well. Sony showed off a tablet and keyboard made from flexible material that can change shape (to change the rear of the device to a stand, for example), and a very thin ultrabook-tablet hybrid device that had a slide-out keyboard with a stylus mounted on it.
Cooler Master had a weird and wonderful idea: they managed to fit a tiny nano-ITX motherboard inside a Hyper 212+ CPU cooler, complete with a processor and ports, including support for Wi-Fi, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0, as well as VGA and eSATA.
Razer, well known to PC gamers for their peripherals, is planning a Tablet PC that’s aimed at the “serious” road-warriors. It has two integrated game controllers in addition to the touch-screen display. Packing a Core-i7, “Project Fiona”, looks to be interesting.
Ultrabooks were out in full force at the trade show, and we found Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga to be a great concept (that will make it to production in about 10 months).
The laptop has a 10-finger multi-touch display that can be rotated 360o away from the keyboard, and can then be used a tablet. It’s thin, light, and packs a big punch with top-of the line hardware. Another ultrabook that will use glass (and will launch next month) is the HP Envy 14 Spectre.
With a Core-i5 and a host of media and network-oriented features, the $1400 price tag seems to be reasonable considering you get full versions of Adobe’s Photoshop and Premier as well as Norton Internet Security.
A nine hour battery life is the icing on this glass cake. Dell will also look to introduce their XPS 13 ultrabook, with high-end hardware and a host of ports and other tech all for $999. It’s a MacBook Air killer in our opinion.
Then there was the usual the plethora of laptops, desktops, and motherboards along with a super secure HDD from Rocstor and a 4TB SSD from OCZ.